President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday was elected as the chairman of Turkey’s governing party after a special congress in Ankara.
Erdogan rejoined the governing Justice and Development Party (AK Party) on May 2 after the public approved changes to create an executive presidency in the referendum on April 16.
Under the old constitution, the head of state had to sever ties with their political party and Erdogan left as AK Party chairman in August 2014 after his election as president.
Rejoining the AK Party was the first major change permitted after the vote, allowing the president to be affiliated with a political party almost immediately.
At the congress, Erdogan was elected to be the AK Party’s new chairman by 1,414 votes, Anadolu Agency reported.
Thousands of AK Party supporters filled the Ankara arena sports complex as Erdogan attended his first major party event since 2014.
“Rather than facing our people with our heads down tomorrow, we prefer to stand tall today,” Erdogan told supporters.
He said the state of emergency would be extended to address the issues that Turkey is facing.
“In my country, they tried to overthrow the state, and we gave 249 martyrs, and had 2,193 injured,” said Erdogan.
“It [state of emergency] will not be lifted. Until when? Until the situation [in Turkey] reaches welfare and peace.”
On April 18, parliament extended Turkey’s ongoing state of emergency, put in place after last year’s failed coup attempt, for another three months.
Erdogan can decide the party’s direction as it prepares for March 2019 local elections and then simultaneous legislative and presidential elections in November that year.
Fourth president to retain party ties
Erdogan becomes the fourth president to retain his party ties. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Republic of Turkey, maintained his membership in the Republican People’s Party (CHP), as did his successor, Ismet Inonu.
Turkey’s third president, Celal Bayar, was also a member of the Democrat Party.
Turkish presidents maintained party ties until the country’s 1960 coup. The post-coup Constitution forced them to cut their links to political parties. The Constitution emerging from another coup, in 1980, maintained that tradition.
Erdogan led the AK Party for 13 years starting from its foundation in 2001 but had to step aside when he was elected as president in August 2014, due to the legal requirement for presidents to be politically neutral.
Erdogan won with 51.4 percent of the vote but most of the new system will not come into force until November 3, 2019.
Yildirim to be given “vice-chairman’s” role
Current party leader and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim will be given a newly-created role of “vice chairman”, AK Party deputy chairman Hayati Yazici said on Saturday.
Erdogan led the party for three terms during his premiership between 2003 and 2014, after he co-founded it in 2001.
After becoming a party member again in an emotional grand ceremony in Ankara, Erdogan said he had “returned to my home, my passion, my love”.